Jeffery Trachtenberg reports in today's WSJ about what I briefly blogged about last night - The changes of the book review section at the LATimes.
Book publishers in recent years have moved away from buying ads in standalone book-review sections in favor of paying to stack mounds of books in the front of chain bookstores.Trachtenberg writes.
And then later in this well thought out article, he quotes various sources talking about how the book biz does or doesn't advertise, explaining how the lion's share of the budget for most books goes into coop dollars so the book is at least visible to the potential readers.
The problem is, that 85% of all books published have less that $2000 marketing budgets. And so there is just so little ad money to go around. Even when a book has a six figure budget, ads cost so much that as the article points out the publishers are hard pressed to buy signifigant numbers of ads. (Which is why the web continues to be so important - its more effective at finding a niche audience and reaching them on a limited budget.)
At least no where in this article does anyone in publishing come right out and say ads don't work. And before I get a flood of email, do a little test.
Look at the bestsellers lists for the next few weeks and see how many books that are selling are doing so without any ad support. People won't buy a book if they don't it exists.
Yes, word of mouth moves moutains of books. But before you move the mountain you have to move the first few thousand copies to get people reading and then talking and they won't talk if they haven't read it and they can't read it if they don't know it exists.
As an avid reader, when I was growing up, it was the ads along with the reviews in the NYTBR that told me what was out that week. Now, since I only read newspapers on line, its bloggers and ads online along with the reviews.
One line I can't argue with, is this one from Jim Warren, Chicago Tribune managing edtior, "The last industry in America to go to for any wisdom about marketing is book publishing." And as anyone who reads this blog knows, that's a pet peeve of mine too.
As someone who spent so many years in the advertising industry and knows the value of marketing research, I continue to find it appalling how little our industry does.
For instance, why aren't we test marketing bookcovers - which are the one and only ad for 90% of all books published. It would cost so little money to set up bookcover tests via an online service and find out if the covers convey and conote what the pubisher hopes. Nope, the powers who be rely on the people who are entrenched in the business, who already know what the book is about, who are not in any way objective. That's just one example.